With the Kenai Peninsula school board about to consider its state and federal legislative priority lists, it seemed only fitting that Monday’s meeting opened with schoolchildren singing “My Alaska” and “This Land Is Your Land.”
During a report on Kaleidoscope Charter School, 30 third- and fourth-graders from Mrs. Nicole Shelden’s and Mrs. Kelli Stroh’s classes sang under the direction of music instructor Elaine Larson.
The performance was part of the school report, a regular monthly feature of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education meetings, which allows individual district schools to describe themselves.
Following a brief introduction by school administrator Mick Wykis, who identified Kaleidoscope as “a school of arts and science,” a number of students addressed the board describing the curriculum and activities of the charter school in their own words.
“We have a yearlong theme,” said a girl who identified herself as Alex. “This year, the theme is ‘From my backyard through our universe.’”
A boy named Logan said science is important at Kaleidoscope.
“Science teaches us perseverance and courageousness,” he said.
Harley Olson told the board the students participate in folk dancing every week.
A boy named Isaac said the school offers lifelong guidelines and life skills to make students responsible citizens.
“There are no put downs (at Kaleidoscope),” Isaac said.
Following their rendition of “This Land Is Your Land,” the children received a standing ovation from the board members.
After a failed attempt by board member Debbie Brown to divide the state legislative priorities from the federal priorities being considered, the board agreed, once again, to ask Juneau for equity funding under the Area Cost Differential formula.
On its approved list of state priorities, the board said, “Immediate implementation of a more appropriate ACD is needed to acknowledge the higher cost of doing business in a district with remote and rural sites.”
The board also repeated its request that the Legislature address the state pension plan unfunded liability as it affects teacher and support staff pensions.
The school board also is asking legislators to address the rising cost of health care in Alaska and to provide accountability for all school-age children in the state.
Brown made a motion to delete the accountability priority, but her motion died for lack of a second.
Later she said she believed state truancy laws were sufficient and the school district does “not need more state involvement.”
She also opposed asking the state to address health care costs, noting the board was asking the federal government to do the same thing.
“We should let the private enterprise system regulate the costs,” Brown said.
During the board member comment portion of the meeting, Dr. Nels Anderson expressed his support of providing accountability.
“I think all students deserve and have a right to an education,” he said.
The Soldotna medical doctor also said his field is not driven by traditional economic forces.
“Medicine is not a free enterprise system,” Anderson said.
Topping the board’s list of federal priorities being sent to Washington is a request for funding adequate housing for teachers in Nanwalek and Tyonek.
The school district be-lieves remote Native villages suffer high teacher turnover, partly due to inadequate housing.
A new duplex in Tyonek built last year has helped, but a second duplex is needed, as well as a similar complex in Nanwalek.
The board also is seeking adequate funding for federal mandates, including No Child Left Behind.
The meeting opened with the swearing in of newly elected board member Lynn Hohl and returning board members Bill Hatch, Marty Anderson and Liz Downing.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at email@example.com.
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